A ruthless Rafael Nadal showed he was primed to win back his beloved French Open crown from Roger Federer when he whipped Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1, 6-3 in his opening match at the Rome Masters.
A day after the world No. 1 had been felled at his first hurdle by Latvian Ernests Gulbis, Nadal left Kohlschreiber scrambling for answers on Wednesday as he began his charge toward a fifth Rome title in six years.
Federer was adamant his Rome setback on Tuesday would have little impact on his chances of defending his Roland Garros crown, as he still had a month to find his best tennis before the clay-court major, but Nadal fired an early warning that he was once again ready to trample over anyone who stands in his way on his favorite surface after knee problems disrupted his season last year.
Nadal’s second-round display was not flawless by any means, but that provided little consolation for Kohlschreiber.
The four-times French Open winner had it all his own way in the first set and Kohlschreiber did not help his cause with some wild forehands.
The German put up more resistance in the second set and had a break-point in the sixth game, but Nadal stood his ground, before breaking serve twice to wrap things up and set up a third-round meeting with Romania’s Victor Hanescu.
Swedish fifth seed Robin Soderling, who handed Nadal his first ever defeat at the French Open last year, is on course to meet the Spaniard in the quarter-finals after dispatching Italian wild-card Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 7-5.
■PORSCHE GRAND PRIX
REUTERS, STUTTGART, GERMANY
Four-time French Open champion Justine Henin overcame a broken finger and a fired-up German opponent to win her opening match in Stuttgart on Wednesday, her first clay-court tournament since her comeback.
The 27-year-old was taken to a tiebreak in the first set, before breaking Julia Goerges’ resistance in the second for a 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 first-round win.
The Belgian, a wild-card for the event, battled through the match wearing a splint on her left little finger that she broke in training last week.
Fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska became the first seed to go out when Israel’s Shahar Peer beat her 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-2.
■GRAND PRIX SAR
AP, FEZ, MOROCCO
Defending champion Anabel Medina Garrigues was eliminated in the second round of the Grand Prix Sar on Wednesday, losing 6-3, 6-2 to Laura Pous Tio in an all-Spanish match.
Top-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain retired from her match when she was leading 6-5 against Britain’s Anne Keothavong, and No. 2 Patty Schnyder of Switzerland struggled to beat Ioana Raluca Olaru of Romania 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
The third-seeded Medina Garrigues, who won her ninth and most recent career title in Fez last year, faced 16 break-points and lost her serve seven times to Pous Tio, a qualifier ranked 192nd.
Pous Tio next plays No. 7 Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic, who beat Claire De Gubernatis of France 6-2, 6-4.
No. 5 Angelique Kerber of Germany also reached the quarter-finals by beating Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski 6-2, 6-2. Alize Cornet of France, Czech player Renata Voracova, and Romania’s Simona Halep also advanced.
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7